– In their final meeting before taking things outdoors, Lehigh and Hershey had a bit of déjà vu from last night. Once again the two in-state rivals played a tight low-scoring goaltending duel. Unlike last night, however, this game required Overtime. A defender who’s no stranger to the scoresheet sent the Phantoms home happy with the 2-1 win.

Both sides traded chances throughout the first 15 minutes with the Phantoms holding an edge in play. Things escalated quite quickly after that when the Bears found the opening strike. Hershey’s killer B top line of Travis Boyd, Mathias Bau and Chris Bourque were working in their offensive zone. Boyd got the puck to Bau on the far side. The Dane promptly centered the puck to Bourque in front. The goal was Bourque’s first since December 9. Boyd’s assist was his 100th career assist in the AHL.

Possibly a little bit of carryover from last night’s Colby Williams hit, tensions flared shortly after the goal. Connor Hobbs was hit in the cover drawing a call and a crowd. Nicolas Aube-Kubel was initially penalized and was latched on to by Liam O’Brien. Mason Mitchell and Steven Swavely were also involved and each were boxed in for roughing. Hershey failed to score on the ensuing power play.

Bears appeared to be tilting the ice in their favor in the second period. TJ Brennan hit the post and for the Phantoms but after that, Hershey was largely possessing in the Lehigh end. Aube-Kubel squashed any momentum the Bears might have had nine minutes into the second. As Hershey failed to score on a couple of chances in tight on Alex Lyon, four Hershey players were caught deep in the Phantoms zone. The rebound sprung a three-on-one the other way. Mike Vecchione sent a pass sailing cross-crease in a perfect spot for Aube-Kubel to deflect in past Pheonix Copley evening the game at 1-1.

Goaltending was the story of the third period. Both goaltenders were on their game but it was Copley who made the better of his saves. At least three ten-bell saves including a stop on a shorthanded breakaway by Lehigh. Thanks in large part to Copley and Lyon, this game required overtime.

In the extra session, Hershey put themselves behind the eight ball 24 seconds in. Aaron Ness was called for holding leaving the Phantoms with a 4-on-3 powerplay. The situation worsened for the penalty killers when Zach Sill broke his stick leaving Hershey with only two fully capable defenders due to the long change. Sill tried not to overcommit but in doing so allowed TJ Brennan plenty of time and space to walk in from the point and fired home the game-winner 44 seconds into overtime. The goal was Brennan’s seventh of the season.

Three Stars

  1. TJ Brennan 1 G 1A
  2. Pheonix Copley 30 save
  3. Alex Lyon 28 saves

This is the third consecutive 2-1 game for the Bears as a lack of finish continues to plague the Chocolate and White.

“Obviously it’s tough to win hockey games when you only score one goal.” Troy Mann lamented in the postgame. “Somehow we gotta find a way to get three goals here because I think the way we’re protecting the middle of the ice and the way our goaltending is if we get to three I think we are in good shape,” said Mann.

A big reason for the scoring struggles recently has been the power play. Tonight Hershey’s power play looked a lot better than it has in the previous three games.  Showing a much better sense of urgency and shoot first mentality. Despite this, the Bears were 0-5 with the man advantage.  The Phantoms did an excellent job of being aggressive towards the Bears on the points and blocking shots. As a result, Hershey either burned power play time by moving the puck around attempting to find a lane or saw their shots be blocked before ever seeing Lyon.

It appeared as though Hershey may have been on track to right the ship after last weekend but took a step right back taking just two out of a possible six points this week.  While Mann sounded a little frustrated he still has the faith.

“We’re still right in there; Charlotte has kind of backed off a bit here and Bridgeport is in there but you obviously you need wins…For us right now you’re just focused on the next task at hand: trying to get two points at Springfield,” Mann said.

The two teams will each have a road game in the coming week on Wednesday before returning to Hershey next week to face off outdoors in the Capital BlueCross Outdoor Classic on Saturday, January 20th. The Sin Bin will be there and have your coverage for both the Alumni game on Friday and the real game on Saturday.

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